LOTR MMO game date finally forged

Midway's Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar goes to battle on April 24; preorders get special subscription rates, beta access.

Moviegoers who thought Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films were long have nothing on gamers who have waited for the Lord of the Rings massively multiplayer online role-playing game. At the 2003 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Vivendi Games (then Vivendi Universal Games) announced that it would publish Middle-earth Online, a LOTR-inspired PC game developed by Turbine, in 2004.

We've been walking through this forest for, like, three years. I want some action!

The game was delayed to 2005 for fine-tuning and was subsequently delayed again to 2006, at which point VU jumped ship and Turbine decided to publish the game on its own and give it a new name. In early 2006, Midway Games, looking to expand its presence in the PC market, signed on to copublish the game, which finally went into its closed beta testing in late 2006.

But there can only be one...release date, that is, and it's almost time for LOTR fans to open their boxed, mint-condition Gandalf-emblazoned mousepads. Midway and Turbine have marked off April 24 as the launch date for The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

Midway and Turbine are also offering a deal for those who know they will be trudging through The Shire for years to come. The two publishers are setting up the Founder's Program for gamers who preorder the MMO game, with special subscription rates and other goodies as incentives.

Gamers who preorder LOTR Online will have the option of choosing a special monthly subscription rate of $9.99 or a lifetime membership for a one-time fee of $199. Turbine and Midway have not yet revealed the standard monthly fee for the game.

Those who put money down early will also receive access to the open beta scheduled for March 30, character rollover from the beta to the live servers, and two in-game items--the Enchanted Cloak of Regeneration and the Ring of Agility.

The preorder program begins February 1. For more information, head over to the LOTR Online official Web site or read GameSpot's previous coverage.

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